Digital Nomads
March 5, 2014 by Brennan Gamwell

Editor’s Note: In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the oDesk blog is proud to share the story of Sue Ten Brummeler, a courageous woman who quit her job to become a Digital Nomad and prioritize experiences with her family.

In 2011, Sue sat down and asked herself, “What’s driving me?” She then composed a “goals and requirements” document outlining what she wanted her future life to look like. The document listed goals such as:

  • More time with her family
  • Location independence
  • Get away from working 9-to-5
  • More time spent travelling
  • Be her own boss

Watch Sue in the Digital Nomad video as she talks about her transition from 9-to-5-er to full-time Digital Nomad.

To realize her vision for her life, Sue made one big decision: to quit her job, launch her first business (Online Cottage Rental), and in doing so become a Digital Nomad.

Three years later, Sue and her family are thriving and enjoying spending time together. Now, Sue can work from the beach beside her Florida condo, or from the living room of a rustic cottage in Northern Ontario. Work is no longer a specific place for her.

Sue Brummeler, digital nomadBut the best part? Sue is getting to spend more time watching her five- and six-year-old son and daughter grow up. Her son even told her to take all the money out of his piggy bank if it would help the family travel more. If it weren’t for the flexibility of her nomadic lifestyle, “I would miss all those precious moments,” she says.

Sue has set a goal now of at least two long trips per year, along with her husband and children. Their first trip is to a peaceful cottage somewhere in Canada, booked through her own business, where they stay for at least four weeks. Sometimes, the cottage is a two-story in the midst of a thick grove of Canadian maples. Sometimes it’s a small place with a lake out back and a fishing dock. It really depends on what the family wants—they rent a different place every time.

The second trip is to Florida, where Sue’s son and daughter can play in the fine Gulf sand and she and her husband can enjoy getting a tan outside of their condo—a far cry from the chilly weather of their native Toronto, Canada.

They’re constantly planning other adventures, skiing most weekends, a trip to Mexico last spring (and another this year), a trip to Quebec and a half-dozen others in the works.

Because Sue and her husband are Digital Nomads, they can work remotely and spend longer away—making these trips rather than vacations because they’re still working. Sue’s husband works remotely as a business-to-business sales rep. Sue is now running two businesses: Online Cottage Rental is a cottage rental website specializing in Canadian properties, and Marketing YYZ is a freelance marketing consulting business. Both operate with the support of a distributed team, where her freelance team members hail from countries as diverse as Bangladesh and the Philippines. “Collaborating with people all around the world is just brilliant,” Sue says.

I don’t care how much money we make—it’s about experiences.

Sue and her husband are learning how best to structure a Digital Nomad lifestyle for those with families, and they provide some good guidance on how. They craft their schedule around family activities. Typically, on longer trips, Sue will watch the kids in the morning, work in the afternoon, then switch with her husband. Then they spend quality time together in the evening.

Before, Sue worked long hours as a director of marketing for a manufacturing company, where she says the amount of time she could take off was “insanely limited” and “the thought of not be able to take two weeks off in the spring or summer really stressed me out. Not being able to see my kids grow up stressed me out.” Says Sue, “I just wanted to spend every possible minute with my family and children.”

In going Nomad, for Sue “time was really a motivating factor. I don’t care how much money we make—it’s about experiences. I don’t need a bigger house, a fancier car or a Prada purse.”

Hear how other Digital Nomads just like Sue have said goodbye to their commute and hello to adventure.

Brennan Gamwell

Communications Manager

Brennan Gamwell is a Communications Manager at oDesk, where he focuses on managing the customer reference program to share the inspiring stories of the amazing professionals using the platform. Brennan brings with him extensive experience in non-profit and advocacy communications from his time in Washington, DC, and is just slightly obsessed with grammar and punctuation (especially hyphens). He holds a Bachelor's degree in international communications… read more